I'll go to Germany,
to be a spy.
I'll eat their sauerkraut,
until my eyes pop out,
and then I'll scream and shout:
"Hotsie totsie I'm a Nazi!" -- Children's ditty, last line shouted out, sung to the tune of "God save the Queen/My Country Tis of Thee"
I remember hearing a story once my friend told me about a Taiwanese guy who showed up to watch a German soccer match in a local pub while wearing a Nazi swastika shirt as an emblem of his support for the German team. The Germans (as well as all other foreigners) who were there were horrified, and finally my friend told this guy that it just isn’t appropriate due to its symbolic meaning. I think he went to the bathroom and reversed his shirt and all was fine. But the Taiwanese staff didn’t think anything of the fact that he was wearing it and was deeply offending half the bar.
So when this girl walked in, I could question her about why she was wearing a swastika around her neck. I explained that in the rest of the world, that would be likely to anger and offend many people. Her response? She said that she wouldn’t wear it in Europe or the U.S., but “Here is Taiwan.” What, is there no meaning to this symbol in Taiwan? Is Taiwan exempt from responsible actions? What is she thinking? I went on to explain that the symbol still has meaning in Taiwan, and she needs to think what message she is sending. Even after explaining that it is basically a symbol representing her support of the killing of 6 million people, she said “I know” and tucked it in her shirt. On what planet does it become acceptable as a fashion statement to wear the Nazi swastika? And why was I the first person to make her feel embarrassed enough to hide it?
While I was reading that today, my friend, the author Dan Bloom, emailed me this well-composed photo from the Taipei Times the other day:
Apparently the ROC is one of the last nations in the world to still use a version of the Fascist salute in swearing in certain government officials. Though little known, the US also used this salute, called the Bellamy salute, for the Pledge of Allegiance into the 1940s, before Roosevelt made it official to switch the whole nation over to the modern hand over the heart position. Here's a pic from the 1890s in the US:
Nazi kitsch is pretty common in Taiwan, where it simply lacks the cultural resonance it has in the West. Remember the Taiwanese company back in 1999 that used Hitler in an advertisement for German-made heaters sold locally? The blog Lost in Translation found this pic a while back:
Some people in Taiwan do understand how nasty the Nazis were and what they mean for westerners and exploit that -- it's routine for the pro-China forces to claim that Chen Shui-bian is a dictator and to mock him as Hitler, especially at media events where western media are likely to be present. Here's a pic from one of the Blues' faux "protests" in March:
And this ad that the Blues ran in the presidential election of '04 comparing Chen to Hitler, which eventually had to be pulled:
And of course, when you're an anti-democracy pundit, what could be more appropriate than releasing a book saying Chen Shui-bian is a Nazi? The People's Daily gushes:
But don't worry, if we have our Nazis, we also have our Anne Franks....as Dan Bloom reports:
Some personages from the cultural circles in Taiwan pointed out on August 8 that in comparison with the German history of the Second World War, the Nazi phenomena in Taiwan could be seen in the social political affairs today.
Attending a new book release, entitled "A shuddered future - analyzing the new dictatorship in Taiwan", political commentator Nanfang Shuo, writer Zhu Tianxin, as well as professors Xie Daning, Zhang Yazhong and Huang Guangguo expressed that the regime of the Democratic Progressive Party has on and on manipulated the national Nazis to form a Nazi environment and atmosphere. With democracy and human rights as covers, they pursue "Taiwan independence" and Fukianese' chauvinism.
Did you know that Taiwan has an "Anne Frank" story of its own? It is about a man who hid from the secret police in small, secret hiding place -- a thin space between two walls, with no room to even stand up -- for 18 years during Taiwan's dictatorship period.
His crime? The government's secret police were looking for him, and rather than risk being arrested, tortured and perhaps killed, Mr. Shih Ru-chen decided to find a hiding place.
Whatever happens, we're sure to see more manifestations of Taiwan's uninformed fascination with Nazi kitsch...
UPDATE: reader Graeme B. sent me this pick of a drink shop sign:
Love the Hercule Poirot mustache.
UPDATE: The talented photographer Poagao snapped these (thanks, man):
The Hitler Cafe:
The Nazi Bike:
[Taiwan] [Chen Shui-bian] [Nazi Germany] [Hitler]